Each year, randomly selected Colorado citizens are chosen to serve on juries within the state. While the process of serving on a jury is considered a civic duty, typical jurors have limited to no legal experience while making incredibly important decisions that have serious consequences for injured people. Because jurors typically do not have any legal training or experience, the Colorado Supreme Court's Pattern Civil Jury Instructions Committee creates sample jury instructions for civil cases based on the state's laws to guide jurors in their determinations. Essentially these pattern jury instructions, when modified by lawyers to suit the details of an individual case, provide direction for the jurors in understanding and rendering legal decisions consistent with a reasonable interpretation of the state’s laws.
Jury Instructions and Why They're Important
One of the most important aspects of jury instructions is that they must be written in a manner that those serving on the jury can understand. The instructions are a complete guide to the trial and testimonial proceedings, from opening instructions on trial procedure to closing instructions involving how the jury should apply the law to the facts of the case and the evidence presented. There are different types of instructions given to the jury, including:
- Limiting instructions: This type of instruction requires the jury to limit their consideration of evidence. For example, if evidence has been introduced solely to establish one aspect of the case but not to prove fault, a jury could be instructed to only consider the evidence for its intended purpose.
- Curative instructions: These instructions are given for the purpose of asking juries to correct an error that has been made in trial. An example of this would be if there was an erroneous statement made by the legal counsel of the plaintiff or the defendant during opening statements and the jury was given the curative instruction to disregard that statement.
- Jury charge: Once the trial has ended and closing arguments have been made, the jury charge will be given. Jury charges contain the facts of the case and the applicable state laws that govern those facts. These instructions explain to the jury how they are to evaluate the evidence that has been presented and deliberate to reach a conclusion.
The Impact Jury Instructions Have on Cases
Colorado's pattern civil jury instructions are important to your case as they are carefully reviewed each year. A simple change of just a few words can impact how your jury interprets the law and determines an outcome.
A UCCS Study revealed that even with pattern instructions, juries often find it hard to understand the instructions that have been given, and that unless the judge has taken the time to modify the pattern instructions to suit the case, the information given is often too vague for juries to accurately apply. Some juries are provided with a written copy of instructions while others are only given an oral reading of the instructions by the judge. While jurors have expressed in studies that they appreciated having the written information to refer to during the case, being supplied with written instructions does little to increase their understanding of the law. However, it has been shown that going over the jury instructions during deliberations, where it can be practically applied to evidence and witness testimony, does produce jurors who are better informed of the task before them.
These studies indicate that how the instructions are worded, how they are delivered, and when, are all aspects that can have a significant impact on your personal injury case.
Your attorneys at Whalen Injury Lawyers can guide you through understanding and navigating through the applicable jury instructions in a strategic manner in your case.
At Whalen Injury Lawyers, our goal is to secure fair and equitable settlements for our clients who are victims of a car accident. We work to establish direct, meaningful, trusted and reliable relationships with every client we represent. When you need an experienced legal team with a proven track record of success, contact us today. We’re happy to offer you a free consultation with one of our successful personal injury lawyers to discuss your legal options. Our Denver Tech Center office is conveniently located at 7955 East Arapahoe Court, Suite 2375 in Centennial, CO 80112. You can reach us in Denver by calling (720) 307- 2666. Our Colorado Springs legal office is located in the Alamo Corporate Center at 102 South Tejon Street, Suite 1100, Colorado Springs, CO 80903. You can contact us in Colorado Springs by calling (719) 644-7000. Give us a call today. We look forward to helping you get the fair compensation you deserve.